I was glad to see the headline: US says N.Korean right to nuke power no deal-breaker. NK’s nuclear weapons program must stop. I have been discouraged by the fact that there is no good way to separate the potential of nuclear energy from the potential to make nuclear weapons. So I was heartened by the headline that implied that we were willing to allow NK to pursue a nuclear energy program.

It would be a difficult task, but perhaps there was some framework of international oversight that would allow such a program to proceed without the worry of further weapons proliferation.

But that’s not exactly what we’re saying.

“The issue for some of the partners is whether … North Korea could then reclaim a right to nuclear energy,” [chief U.S. negotiator, Christopher] Hill said. “If you ask me, it’s not exactly a showstopper issue — the real issue is getting rid of all their nuclear programs.” [Emphasis added.]

It seems that what we are saying is ‘they can have the right to nuclear energy all they want. So long as they don’t pursue it.’ Is this interpretation correct?

Here is what a US official said:

A U.S. official, who asked not to be named because he was discussing the administration’s internal divisions, said the United States was involved in a critical debate over whether to concede North Korea’s right to nuclear power next week.

“In the past, it would have been dismissed as outrageous to even consider North Korea could have such a right. Now you see signs that it could be OK, because supposedly it’s only a ‘theoretical’ right.” he said. “The problem with that is theory can be put into practice swiftly and we are back where we started.”

I’ve asked a similar question before: Should we outlaw all independent enrichment programs, and distribute nuclear fuel only for energy purposes?

Politics A 'Theoretical' Right